Yonkers, New York – Subaru has earned the top score in Consumer Reports’ automaker report cards for 2012, the first time it has done so, while Mazda’s score showed the best improvement and Ford’s fell the most.

Subaru’s score of 75, two points higher than last year, reflects better test scores for such redesigned models as the Impreza, Legacy, and Outback over the last few years. The 2012 Impreza now tops the small sedan class and is the Top Pick in that category. Subaru’s average road test score of 82 is the highest in Consumer Reports analysis.

Honda, which had been the perennial winner for the past four years, slipped to fourth place among 13 major automakers. The magazine said that while Honda models are still among the most reliable on the road overall, the company was hurt by several redesigned models, including the Civic and Odyssey, that didn’t measure up to their predecessors. Toyota remained among the top three for the fifth straight year.

The report cards reflect the performance, comfort, utility, and reliability of more than 275 vehicles the magazine recently rated, with each automaker’s overall score based on the average road test scores and reliability ratings for all of its models that Consumer Reports has tested.

“While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking,” said David Champion, senior director of the Automotive Test Center. “In some of Honda’s and Toyota’s recently redesigned models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable.”

Mazda showed the most improvement, climbing to second place from last year’s seventh. It was helped by an improved Mazda3 and by the discontinuation of the Tribute and RX-8, two models that dragged down its score.

Ford dropped the most, from fifth place last year to tenth. Ford’s road test score improved by two points over last year, but its grade was hurt by sub-par reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission.

“GM and Chrysler are building nicer cars with each redesign,” Champion said. “Still, their scores are dragged down by several older designs that score low in Consumer Reports testing or have reliability issues. As more new products are introduced, their fortunes could change if they can improve their overall reliability.”

Although Chrysler remains in last place, its overall score jumped eight points, making it the second-most improved automaker. Its average road test score also increased by eight points, the most of any automaker, and its overall reliability improved to “average.”

Volvo earned the best grade of any European automaker, thanks in part to a large improvement in the redesigned S60, but average reliability and less than stellar test scores kept the company from making further progress.

Like Toyota and Honda, Volkswagen’s redesign of some of its best-selling models, including the Jetta and Passat, dropped in Consumer Reports road test scores. At Audi, the redesigned A6 and A8 posted large gains in these scores.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz both climbed to “average” in reliability, but they were hurt by the reliability of some popular models, including poor scores for the turbocharged Mini Cooper, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class and GL-Class.

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